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1.  Caspase cleavage of GFAP produces an assembly-compromised proteolytic fragment that promotes filament aggregation 
ASN NEURO  2013;5(5):e00125.
IF (intermediate filament) proteins can be cleaved by caspases to generate proapoptotic fragments as shown for desmin. These fragments can also cause filament aggregation. The hypothesis is that disease-causing mutations in IF proteins and their subsequent characteristic histopathological aggregates could involve caspases. GFAP (glial fibrillary acidic protein), a closely related IF protein expressed mainly in astrocytes, is also a putative caspase substrate. Mutations in GFAP cause AxD (Alexander disease). The overexpression of wild-type or mutant GFAP promotes cytoplasmic aggregate formation, with caspase activation and GFAP proteolysis. In this study, we report that GFAP is cleaved specifically by caspase 6 at VELD225 in its L12 linker domain in vitro. Caspase cleavage of GFAP at Asp225 produces two major cleavage products. While the C-GFAP (C-terminal GFAP) is unable to assemble into filaments, the N-GFAP (N-terminal GFAP) forms filamentous structures that are variable in width and prone to aggregation. The effect of N-GFAP is dominant, thus affecting normal filament assembly in a way that promotes filament aggregation. Transient transfection of N-GFAP into a human astrocytoma cell line induces the formation of cytoplasmic aggregates, which also disrupt the endogenous GFAP networks. In addition, we generated a neo-epitope antibody that recognizes caspase-cleaved but not the intact GFAP. Using this antibody, we demonstrate the presence of the caspase-generated GFAP fragment in transfected cells expressing a disease-causing mutant GFAP and in two mouse models of AxD. These findings suggest that caspase-mediated GFAP proteolysis may be a common event in the context of both the GFAP mutation and excess.
PMCID: PMC3833455  PMID: 24102621
Alexander disease; caspase; GFAP; intermediate filament; AD, Alzheimer’s disease; AxD, Alexander disease; C-GFAP, C-terminal GFAP; CNS, central nervous system; DTT, dithiothreitol; GAPDH, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase; GFAP, glial fibrillary acidic protein; IF, intermediate filament; N-GFAP, N-terminal GFAP OA, okadaic acid; TBS, Tris-buffered saline; TBST, TBS containing 0.1% (v/v) Tween 20
2.  Analysis of the Dominant Effects Mediated by Wild Type or R120G Mutant of αB-crystallin (HspB5) towards Hsp27 (HspB1) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e70545.
Several human small heat shock proteins (sHsps) are phosphorylated oligomeric chaperones that enhance stress resistance. They are characterized by their ability to interact and form polydispersed hetero-oligomeric complexes. We have analyzed the cellular consequences of the stable expression of either wild type HspB5 or its cataracts and myopathies inducing R120G mutant in growing and oxidative stress treated HeLa cells that originally express only HspB1. Here, we describe that wild type and mutant HspB5 induce drastic and opposite effects on cell morphology and oxidative stress resistance. The cellular distribution and phosphorylation of these polypeptides as well as the oligomerization profile of the resulting hetero-oligomeric complexes formed by HspB1 with the two types of exogenous polypeptides revealed the dominant effects induced by HspB5 polypeptides towards HspB1. The R120G mutation enhanced the native size and salt resistance of HspB1-HspB5 complex. However, in oxidative conditions the interaction between HspB1 and mutant HspB5 was drastically modified resulting in the aggregation of both partners. The mutation also induced the redistribution of HspB1 phosphorylated at serine 15, originally observed at the level of the small oligomers that do not interact with wild type HspB5, to the large oligomeric complex formed with mutant HspB5. This phosphorylation stabilized the interaction of HspB1 with mutant HspB5. A dominant negative effect towards HspB1 appears therefore as an important event in the cellular sensitivity to oxidative stress mediated by mutated HspB5 expression. These observations provide novel data that describe how a mutated sHsp can alter the protective activity of another member of this family of chaperones.
PMCID: PMC3741289  PMID: 23950959
3.  Genetic Background Affects Human Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein Promoter Activity 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66873.
The human glial fibrillary acidic protein (hGFAP) promoter has been used to generate numerous transgenic mouse lines, which has facilitated the analysis of astrocyte function in health and disease. Here, we evaluated the expression levels of various hGFAP transgenes at different ages in the two most commonly used inbred mouse strains, FVB/N (FVB) and C57BL/6N (B6N). In general, transgenic mice maintained on the B6N background displayed weaker transgene expression compared with transgenic FVB mice. Higher level of transgene expression in B6N mice could be regained by crossbreeding to FVB wild type mice. However, the endogenous murine GFAP expression was equivalent in both strains. In addition, we found that endogenous GFAP expression was increased in transgenic mice in comparison to wild type mice. The activities of the hGFAP transgenes were not age-dependently regulated. Our data highlight the importance of proper expression analysis when non-homologous recombination transgenesis is used.
PMCID: PMC3691242  PMID: 23826164
4.  In-the-Bag Intraocular Lens Placement via Secondary Capsulorhexis with Radiofrequency Diathermy in Pediatric Aphakic Eyes 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62381.
Pediatric ophthalmologists increasingly recognize that the ideal site for intraocular lens (IOL) implantation is in the bag for aphakic eyes, but it is always very difficult via conventional technique. We conducted a prospective case series study to investigate the success rate and clinical outcomes of capsular bag reestablishment and in-the-bag IOL implantation via secondary capsulorhexis with radiofrequency diathermy (RFD) in pediatric aphakic eyes, in which twenty-two consecutive aphakic pediatric patients (43 aphakic eyes) enrolled in the Childhood Cataract Program of the Chinese Ministry of Health were included. The included children underwent either our novel technique for secondary IOL implantation (with RFD) or the conventional technique (with a bent needle or forceps), depending on the type of preoperative proliferative capsular bag present. In total, secondary capsulorhexis with RFD was successfully applied in 32 eyes (32/43, 74.4%, age 5.6±2.3 years), of which capsular bag reestablishment and in-the-bag IOL implantation were both achieved in 30 eyes (30/43, 70.0%), but in the remaining 2 eyes (2/32, 6.2%) the IOLs were implanted in the sulcus with a capsular bag that was too small. Secondary capsulorhexis with conventional technique was applied in the other 11 eyes (11/43, 25.6%, age 6.9±2.3 years), of which capsular bag reestablishment and in-the-bag IOL implantation were both achieved only in 3 eyes(3/43, 7.0%), and the IOLs were implanted in the sulcus in the remaining 8 eyes. A doughnut-like proliferative capsular bag with an extensive Soemmering ring (32/43, 74.4%) was the main success factor for secondary capsulorhexis with RFD, and a sufficient capsular bag size (33/43, 76.7%) was an additional factor in successful in-the-bag IOL implantation. In conclusion, RFD secondary capsulorhexis technique has 70% success rate in the capsular bag reestablishment and in-the-bag IOL implantation in pediatric aphakic eyes, particularly effective in cases with a doughnut-like, extensively proliferative Soemmering ring.
PMCID: PMC3634760  PMID: 23638058
5.  Evolution of the vertebrate beaded filament protein, Bfsp2; comparing the in vitro assembly properties of a “tailed” zebrafish Bfsp2 to its “tailless” human orthologue 
Experimental eye research  2011;94(1):192-202.
In bony fishes, Bfsp2 orthologues are predicted to possess a C-terminal tail domain, which is absent from avian, amphibian and mammalian Bfsp2 sequences. These sequences, are however, not conserved between fish species and therefore questions whether they have a functional role. For other intermediate filament proteins, the C-terminal tail domain is important for both filament assembly and regulating interactions between filaments. We confirm that zebrafish has a single Bfsp2 gene by radiation mapping. Two transcripts (bfsp2α and bfsp2β) are produced by alternative splicing of the last exon. Using a polyclonal antibody specific to a tridecameric peptide in the C-terminal tail domain common to both zebrafish Bfsp2 splice variants, we have confirmed its expression in zebrafish lens fibre cells. We have also determined the in vitro assembly properties of zebrafish Bfsp2α and conclude that the C-terminal sequences are required to regulate not only the diameter and uniformity of the in vitro assembly filaments, but also their filament–filament associations in vitro. Therefore we conclude zebrafish Bfsp2α is a functional orthologue conforming more closely to the conventional domain structure of intermediate filament proteins. Data mining of the genome databases suggest that the loss of this tail domain could occur in several stages leading eventually to completely tailless orthologues, such as human BFSP2.
PMCID: PMC3593068  PMID: 22182672
lens; cytoskeleton; beaded filaments; BFSP1; intermediate filament; evolution
6.  αA-Crystallin–Derived Mini-Chaperone Modulates Stability and Function of Cataract Causing αAG98R-Crystallin 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44077.
A substitution mutation in human αA-crystallin (αAG98R) is associated with autosomal dominant cataract. The recombinant mutant αAG98R protein exhibits altered structure, substrate-dependent chaperone activity, impaired oligomer stability and aggregation on prolonged incubation at 37°C. Our previous studies have shown that αA-crystallin–derived mini-chaperone (DFVIFLDVKHFSPEDLTVK) functions like a molecular chaperone by suppressing the aggregation of denaturing proteins. The present study was undertaken to determine the effect of αA-crystallin–derived mini-chaperone on the stability and chaperone activity of αAG98R-crystallin.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Recombinant αAG98R was incubated in presence and absence of mini-chaperone and analyzed by chromatographic and spectrometric methods. Transmission electron microscope was used to examine the effect of mini-chaperone on the aggregation propensity of mutant protein. Mini-chaperone containing photoactive benzoylphenylalanine was used to confirm the interaction of mini-chaperone with αAG98R. The rescuing of chaperone activity in mutantα-crystallin (αAG98R) by mini-chaperone was confirmed by chaperone assays. We found that the addition of the mini-chaperone during incubation of αAG98R protected the mutant crystallin from forming larger aggregates that precipitate with time. The mini-chaperone-stabilized αAG98R displayed chaperone activity comparable to that of wild-type αA-crystallin. The complexes formed between mini-αA–αAG98R complex and ADH were more stable than the complexes formed between αAG98R and ADH. Western-blotting and mass spectrometry confirmed the binding of mini-chaperone to mutant crystallin.
These results demonstrate that mini-chaperone stabilizes the mutant αA-crystallin and modulates the chaperone activity of αAG98R. These findings aid in our understanding of how to design peptide chaperones that can be used to stabilize mutant αA-crystallins and preserve the chaperone function.
PMCID: PMC3435407  PMID: 22970163
7.  Genetic Ablation of Nrf2/Antioxidant Response Pathway in Alexander Disease Mice Reduces Hippocampal Gliosis but Does Not Impact Survival 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37304.
In Alexander disease (AxD) the presence of mutant glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), the major intermediate filament of astrocytes, triggers protein aggregation, with marked induction of a stress response mediated by the transcription factor, Nrf2. To clarify the role of Nrf2 in AxD, we have crossed Gfap mutant and transgenic mouse models into an Nrf2 null background. Deletion of Nrf2 eliminates the phase II stress response normally present in mouse models of AxD, but causes no change in body weight or lifespan, even in a severe lethal model. AxD astrocytes without Nrf2 retain features of reactivity, such as expression of the endothelin-B receptor, but have lower Gfap levels, a decrease in p62 protein and reduced iron accumulation, particularly in hippocampus. Microglial activation, indicated by Iba1 expression, is also diminished. Although the Nrf2 response is generally considered beneficial, these results show that in the context of AxD, loss of the antioxidant pathway has no obvious negative effects, while actually decreasing Gfap accumulation and pathology. Given the attention Nrf2 is receiving as a potential therapeutic target in AxD and other neurodegenerative diseases, it will be interesting to see whether induction of Nrf2, beyond the endogenous response, is beneficial or not in these same models.
PMCID: PMC3365053  PMID: 22693571
8.  Homeostasis in the vertebrate lens: mechanisms of solute exchange 
The eye lens is avascular, deriving nutrients from the aqueous and vitreous humours. It is, however, unclear which mechanisms mediate the transfer of solutes between these humours and the lens' fibre cells (FCs). In this review, we integrate the published data with the previously unpublished ultrastructural, dye loading and magnetic resonance imaging results. The picture emerging is that solute transfer between the humours and the fibre mass is determined by four processes: (i) paracellular transport of ions, water and small molecules along the intercellular spaces between epithelial and FCs, driven by Na+-leak conductance; (ii) membrane transport of such solutes from the intercellular spaces into the fibre cytoplasm by specific carriers and transporters; (iii) gap-junctional coupling mediating solute flux between superficial and deeper fibres, Na+/K+-ATPase-driven efflux of waste products in the equator, and electrical coupling of fibres; and (iv) transcellular transfer via caveoli and coated vesicles for the uptake of macromolecules and cholesterol. There is evidence that the Na+-driven influx of solutes occurs via paracellular and membrane transport and the Na+/K+-ATPase-driven efflux of waste products via gap junctions. This micro-circulation is likely restricted to the superficial cortex and nearly absent beyond the zone of organelle loss, forming a solute exchange barrier in the lens.
PMCID: PMC3061106  PMID: 21402585
vertebrate eye lens; solute flux; ultrastructure; gap junctions; MRI; dye loading
9.  EPHA2 Polymorphisms and Age-Related Cataract in India 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33001.
We investigated whether previously reported single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of EPHA2 in European studies are associated with cataract in India.
We carried out a population-based genetic association study. We enumerated randomly sampled villages in two areas of north and south India to identify people aged 40 and over. Participants attended a clinical examination including lens photography and provided a blood sample for genotyping. Lens images were graded by the Lens Opacification Classification System (LOCS III). Cataract was defined as a LOCS III grade of nuclear ≥4, cortical ≥3, posterior sub-capsular (PSC) ≥2, or dense opacities or aphakia/pseudophakia in either eye. We genotyped SNPs rs3754334, rs7543472 and rs11260867 on genomic DNA extracted from peripheral blood leukocytes using TaqMan assays in an ABI 7900 real-time PCR. We used logistic regression with robust standard errors to examine the association between cataract and the EPHA2 SNPs, adjusting for age, sex and location.
7418 participants had data on at least one of the SNPs investigated. Genotype frequencies of controls were in Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium (p>0.05). There was no association of rs3754334 with cataract or type of cataract. Minor allele homozygous genotypes of rs7543472 and rs11260867 compared to the major homozygote genotype were associated with cortical cataract, Odds ratio (OR) = 1.8, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) (1.1, 3.1) p = 0.03 and 2.9 (1.2, 7.1) p = 0.01 respectively, and with PSC cataract, OR = 1.5 (1.1, 2.2) p = 0.02 and 1.8 (0.9, 3.6) p = 0.07 respectively. There was no consistent association of SNPs with nuclear cataract or a combined variable of any type of cataract including operated cataract.
Our results in the Indian population agree with previous studies of the association of EPHA2 variants with cortical cataracts. We report new findings for the association with PSC which is particularly prevalent in Indians.
PMCID: PMC3297613  PMID: 22412971
10.  Multiple Sites in αB-Crystallin Modulate Its Interactions with Desmin Filaments Assembled In Vitro 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e25859.
The β3- and β8-strands and C-terminal residues 155–165 of αB-crystallin were identified by pin arrays as interaction sites for various client proteins including the intermediate filament protein desmin. Here we present data using 5 well-characterised αB-crystallin protein constructs with substituted β3- and β8-strands and with the C-terminal residues 155–165 deleted to demonstrate the importance of these sequences to the interaction of αB-crystallin with desmin filaments. We used electron microscopy of negatively stained samples to visualize increased interactions followed by sedimentation assays to quantify our observations. A low-speed sedimentation assay measured the ability of αB-crystallin to prevent the self-association of desmin filaments. A high-speed sedimentation assay measured αB-crystallin cosedimentation with desmin filaments. Swapping the β8-strand of αB-crystallin or deleting residues 155–165 increased the cosedimentation of αB-crystallin with desmin filaments, but this coincided with increased filament-filament interactions. In contrast, substitution of the β3-strand with the equivalent αA-crystallin sequences improved the ability of αB-crystallin to prevent desmin filament-filament interactions with no significant change in its cosedimentation properties. These data suggest that all three sequences (β3-strand, β8-strand and C-terminal residues 155–165) contribute to the interaction of αB-crystallin with desmin filaments. The data also suggest that the cosedimentation of αB-crystallin with desmin filaments does not necessarily correlate with preventing desmin filament-filament interactions. This important observation is relevant not only to the formation of the protein aggregates that contain both desmin and αB-crystallin and typify desmin related myopathies, but also to the interaction of αB-crystallin with other filamentous protein polymers.
PMCID: PMC3212511  PMID: 22096479
11.  MAPKAPK-2 modulates p38-MAPK localization and small heat shock protein phosphorylation but does not mediate the injury associated with p38-MAPK activation during myocardial ischemia 
Cell Stress & Chaperones  2009;14(5):477-489.
MAPKAPK-2 (MK2) is a protein kinase activated downstream of p38-MAPK which phosphorylates the small heat shock proteins HSP27 and αB crystallin and modulates p38-MAPK cellular distribution. p38-MAPK activation is thought to contribute to myocardial ischemic injury; therefore, we investigated MK2 effects on ischemic injury and p38 cellular localization using MK2-deficient mice (KO). Immunoblotting of extracts from Langendorff-perfused hearts subjected to aerobic perfusion or global ischemia or reperfusion showed that the total and phosphorylated p38 levels were significantly lower in MK2−/− compared to MK2+/+ hearts at baseline, but the ratio of phosphorylated/total p38 was similar. These results were confirmed by cellular fractionation and immunoblotting for both cytosolic and nuclear compartments. Furthermore, HSP27 and αB crsytallin phosphorylation were reduced to baseline in MK2−/− hearts. On semiquantitative immunofluorescence laser confocal microscopy of hearts during aerobic perfusion, the mean total p38 fluorescence was significantly higher in the nuclear compared to extranuclear (cytoplasmic, sarcomeric, and sarcolemmal compartments) in MK2+/+ hearts. However, although the increase in phosphorylated p38 fluorescence intensity in all compartments following ischemia in MK2+/+ hearts was lost in MK2−/− hearts, it was basally elevated in nuclei of MK2−/− hearts and was similar to that seen during ischemia in MK2+/+ hearts. Despite these differences, similar infarct volumes were recorded in wild-type MK2+/+ and MK2−/− hearts, which were decreased by the p38 inhibitor SB203580 (1 μM) in both genotypes. In conclusion, p38 MAPK-induced myocardial ischemic injury is not modulated by MK2. However, the absence of MK2 perturbs the cellular distribution of p38. The preserved nuclear distribution of active p38 MAPK in MK2−/− hearts and the conserved response to SB203580 suggests that activation of p38 MAPK may contribute to injury independently of MK2.
PMCID: PMC2728281  PMID: 19214782
Ischemia; MAPKAPK-2; p38 MAPK; HSP27; αB-crystallin
12.  Functions of the intermediate filament cytoskeleton in the eye lens 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2009;119(7):1837-1848.
Intermediate filaments (IFs) are a key component of the cytoskeleton in virtually all vertebrate cells, including those of the lens of the eye. IFs help integrate individual cells into their respective tissues. This Review focuses on the lens-specific IF proteins beaded filament structural proteins 1 and 2 (BFSP1 and BFSP2) and their role in lens physiology and disease. Evidence generated in studies in both mice and humans suggests a critical role for these proteins and their filamentous polymers in establishing the optical properties of the eye lens and in maintaining its transparency. For instance, mutations in both BFSP1 and BFSP2 cause cataract in humans. We also explore the potential role of BFSP1 and BFSP2 in aging processes in the lens.
PMCID: PMC2701874  PMID: 19587458
13.  A cell polarity protein aPKCλ is required for eye lens formation and growth 
Developmental Biology  2009;336(2):246-256.
The organisation of individual cells into a functional three-dimensional tissue is still a major question in developmental biology. Modulation of epithelial cell shape is a critical driving force in forming tissues. This is well illustrated in the eye lens where epithelial cells elongate extensively during their differentiation into fibre cells. It is at the lens equator that epithelial cells elongate along their apical–basal axis. During this process the elongating epithelial cells and their earliest fibre cell derivatives remain anchored at their apical tips, forming a discrete region or modiolus, which we term the lens fulcrum. How this is achieved has received scant attention and is little understood. Here, we show that conditional depletion of aPKCλ, a central effector of the PAR polarity complex, disrupts the apical junctions in elongating epithelial cells so that the lens fulcrum fails to form. This results in disorganised fibre cell alignment that then causes cataract. Interestingly, aPKCλ depletion also promotes epithelial–mesenchymal transition of the lens epithelial cells, reducing their proliferation, leading ultimately to a small lens and microphthalmia. These observations indicate that aPKCλ, a regulator of polarity and apical junctions, is required for development of a lens that is the correct size and shape.
PMCID: PMC2806522  PMID: 19835853
Lens; aPKC; Polarity; Cell junction; Proliferation
14.  A Thermodynamic Model of Microtubule Assembly and Disassembly 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6378.
Microtubules are self-assembling polymers whose dynamics are essential for the normal function of cellular processes including chromosome separation and cytokinesis. Therefore understanding what factors effect microtubule growth is fundamental to our understanding of the control of microtubule based processes. An important factor that determines the status of a microtubule, whether it is growing or shrinking, is the length of the GTP tubulin microtubule cap. Here, we derive a Monte Carlo model of the assembly and disassembly of microtubules. We use thermodynamic laws to reduce the number of parameters of our model and, in particular, we take into account the contribution of water to the entropy of the system. We fit all parameters of the model from published experimental data using the GTP tubulin dimer attachment rate and the lateral and longitudinal binding energies of GTP and GDP tubulin dimers at both ends. Also we calculate and incorporate the GTP hydrolysis rate. We have applied our model and can mimic published experimental data, which formerly suggested a single layer GTP tubulin dimer microtubule cap, to show that these data demonstrate that the GTP cap can fluctuate and can be several microns long.
PMCID: PMC2719802  PMID: 19668378
15.  GFAP and its role in Alexander Disease 
Experimental cell research  2007;313(10):2077-2087.
Here we review how GFAP mutations cause Alexander disease. The current data suggest that a combination of events cause the disease. These include: i) the accumulation of GFAP and the formation of characteristic aggregates, called Rosenthal fibres, ii) the sequestration of the protein chaperones αB-crystallin and HSP27 into Rosenthal fibres, and iii) the activation of both Jnk and the stress response. These then set in motion events that lead to Alexander disease. We discuss parallels with other intermediate filament diseases and assess potential therapies as part of this review as well as emerging trends in disease diagnosis and other aspects concerning GFAP.
PMCID: PMC2702672  PMID: 17498694
Alexander disease; GFAP; chaperone; alphaB-crystallin; Jnk; MLK
16.  Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein Filaments Can Tolerate the Incorporation of Assembly-compromised GFAP-δ, but with Consequences for Filament Organization and αB-Crystallin Association 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2008;19(10):4521-4533.
The glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) gene is alternatively spliced to give GFAP-α, the most abundant isoform, and seven other differentially expressed transcripts including GFAP-δ. GFAP-δ has an altered C-terminal domain that renders it incapable of self-assembly in vitro. When titrated with GFAP-α, assembly was restored providing GFAP-δ levels were kept low (∼10%). In a range of immortalized and transformed astrocyte derived cell lines and human spinal cord, we show that GFAP-δ is naturally part of the endogenous intermediate filaments, although levels were low (∼10%). This suggests that GFAP filaments can naturally accommodate a small proportion of assembly-compromised partners. Indeed, two other assembly-compromised GFAP constructs, namely enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP)-tagged GFAP and the Alexander disease–causing GFAP mutant, R416W GFAP both showed similar in vitro assembly characteristics to GFAP-δ and could also be incorporated into endogenous filament networks in transfected cells, providing expression levels were kept low. Another common feature was the increased association of αB-crystallin with the intermediate filament fraction of transfected cells. These studies suggest that the major physiological role of the assembly-compromised GFAP-δ splice variant is as a modulator of the GFAP filament surface, effecting changes in both protein– and filament–filament associations as well as Jnk phosphorylation.
PMCID: PMC2555932  PMID: 18685083
17.  FGF-2 Release from the Lens Capsule by MMP-2 Maintains Lens Epithelial Cell Viability 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2007;18(11):4222-4231.
The lens is an avascular tissue, separated from the aqueous and vitreous humors by its own extracellular matrix, the lens capsule. Here we demonstrate that the lens capsule is a source of essential survival factors for lens epithelial cells. Primary and immortalized lens epithelial cells survive in low levels of serum and are resistant to staurosporine-induced apoptosis when they remain in contact with the lens capsule. Physical contact with the capsule is required for maximal resistance to stress. The lens capsule is also a source of soluble factors including fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF-2) and perlecan, an extracellular matrix component that enhances FGF-2 activity. Matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP-2) inhibition as well as MMP-2 pretreatment of lens capsules greatly reduced the protective effect of the lens capsule, although this could be largely reversed by the addition of either conditioned medium or recombinant FGF-2. These data suggest that FGF-2 release from the lens capsule by MMP-2 is essential to lens epithelial cell viability and survival.
PMCID: PMC2043559  PMID: 17699594
18.  Desmin Aggregate Formation by R120G αB-Crystallin Is Caused by Altered Filament Interactions and Is Dependent upon Network Status in Cells 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2004;15(5):2335-2346.
The R120G mutation in αB-crystallin causes desmin-related myopathy. There have been a number of mechanisms proposed to explain the disease process, from altered protein processing to loss of chaperone function. Here, we show that the mutation alters the in vitro binding characteristics of αB-crystallin for desmin filaments. The apparent dissociation constant of R120G αB-crystallin was decreased while the binding capacity was increased significantly and as a result, desmin filaments aggregated. These data suggest that the characteristic desmin aggregates seen as part of the disease histopathology can be caused by a direct, but altered interaction of R120G αB-crystallin with desmin filaments. Transfection studies show that desmin networks in different cell backgrounds are not equally affected. Desmin networks are most vulnerable when they are being made de novo and not when they are already established. Our data also clearly demonstrate the beneficial role of wild-type αB-crystallin in the formation of desmin filament networks. Collectively, our data suggest that R120G αB-crystallin directly promotes desmin filament aggregation, although this gain of a function can be repressed by some cell situations. Such circumstances in muscle could explain the late onset characteristic of the myopathies caused by mutations in αB-crystallin.
PMCID: PMC404027  PMID: 15004226
19.  Lamin A/C Binding Protein LAP2α Is Required for Nuclear Anchorage of Retinoblastoma Protein 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2002;13(12):4401-4413.
The phosphorylation-dependent anchorage of retinoblastoma protein Rb in the nucleus is essential for its function. We show that its pocket C domain is both necessary and sufficient for nuclear anchorage by transiently expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) chimeras of Rb fragments in tissue culture cells and by extracting the cells with hypotonic solutions. Solid phase binding assays using glutathione S-transferase-fusion of Rb pockets A, B, and C revealed a direct association of lamin C exclusively to pocket C. Lamina-associated polypeptide (LAP) 2α, a binding partner of lamins A/C, bound strongly to pocket C and weakly to pocket B. When LAP2α was immunoprecipitated from soluble nuclear fractions, lamins A/C and hypophosphorylated Rb were coprecipitated efficiently. Similarly, immunoprecipitation of expressed GFP-Rb fragments by using anti-GFP antibodies coprecipitated LAP2α, provided that pocket C was present in the GFP chimeras. On redistribution of endogenous lamin A/C and LAP2α into nuclear aggregates by overexpressing dominant negative lamin mutants in tissue culture cells, Rb was also sequestered into these aggregates. In primary skin fibroblasts, LAP2α is expressed in a growth-dependent manner. Anchorage of hypophosphorylated Rb in the nucleus was weakened significantly in the absence of LAP2α. Together, these data suggest that hypophosphorylated Rb is anchored in the nucleus by the interaction of pocket C with LAP2α–lamin A/C complexes.
PMCID: PMC138642  PMID: 12475961
20.  Antagonistic action of Six3 and Prox1 at the γ-crystallin promoter 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(2):515-526.
γ-Crystallin genes are specifically expressed in the eye lens. Their promoters constitute excellent models to analyse tissue-specific gene expression. We investigated murine Cryge/f promoters of different length in lens epithelial cell lines. The most active fragment extends from position –219 to +37. Computer analysis predicts homeodomain and paired-domain binding sites for all rodent Crygd/e/f core promoters. As examples, we analysed the effects of Prox1 and Six3, which are considered important transcription factors involved in lens development. Because of endogenous Prox1 expression in N/N1003A cells, a weak stimulation of Cryge/f promoter activity was found for PROX1. In contrast, PROX1 stimulated the Crygf promoter 10-fold in CD5A cells without endogenous PROX1. In both cell lines Six3 repressed the Crygf promoter to 10% of its basal activity. Our cell transfection experiments indicated that Cryg expression increases as Six3 expression decreases. Prox1 and Six3 act antagonistically on regulation of the Crygd/e/f promoters. Functional assays using randomly mutated γF-crystallin promoter fragments define a Six3-responsive element between –101 and –123 and a Prox1-responsive element between –151 and –174. Since Prox1 and Six3 are present at the beginning of lens development, expression of Crygd/e/f is predicted to remain low at this time. It increases as Six3 expression decreases during ongoing lens development.
PMCID: PMC29665  PMID: 11139622

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